Whenever a mic check involves yelling or growling, you realize you’re in for a good dose of punk. On Saturday, a sold-out Rough Trade got two doses. The late-night show was a one-two punch of small-stage punk destruction, with Brooklyn locals BAMBARA getting the room revved up before a much-anticipated performance from Bristol’s IDLES. As Saturday became Sunday and the tangled, perspiring crowd thrashed into morning, the vibe was both reckless and good spirited; like an unsupervised wave pool at a waterpark, complete with divers who grew more and more daring each time they jumped off the stage.
In a set that culminated in screams and a guitar whacking the floor, BAMBARA set the mood with a pulse-racing setlist, their impacts sounding even tighter and snappier than when we saw them a year ago at Saint Vitus. Flinging the mic stand like a yo-yo and slamming his boots into the amps, frontman Reid Bateh created an edge of unpredictability that was especially exciting amid the strong band’s gnarly, noise punk roar. His vocals remained cool and cruel in the wake of their frenetic musical energy as BAMBARA ripped up songs from their second full-length record, last year’s Swarm. And the hard-dancing crowd weren’t the only ones enjoying it. During the headlining set from IDLES that followed, frontman Joe Talbot praised them with sincere admiration. “The band that went on before us, BAMBARA, are one of the best bands we’ve seen in fucking ages,” he said. “We’re humbled to go on after a band like that.”
It was 11:57pm when they did, and their very first moments on stage included Joe giving lead guitarist Mark “Bobo” Bowen – who was already shirtless and rocking his “Bobo”-embroidered white boxing shorts – a cheerful kiss on the cheek. Spreading the feel-good, fuck-everything vibe that makes them such a blast to witness live, IDLES took over every inch of Rough Trade’s stage with a fast-paced, shred-heavy set that constantly made you crave more. As fan favorites like opening song “Heel / Heal,” “Mother” and “1049 Gotho” from last year’s Brutalism made an early appearance, the tattoo-laden punks soaked up wild energy from their fans, who were slamming into each other happily in the whirlpool of a pit. Thrusting the good vibes back at them at the top of their lungs, Joe, Bobo, and guitarist Lee Kiernan threw their bodies into every possible position as they performed, while their badass rhythm section – made up of bassist Adam Devonshire and drummer Jon Beavis – maintained the aggressive tempo as gleefully as if they were breaking bottles on bricks. When Joe wasn’t interlaced with his soloing bandmates or filling in the blanks with his rugged voice, he often spit straight into the air above them to punctuate his words.
IDLES’ Rough Trade show was an undeniably special one, and not just because they got the whole venue to sing a drunken rendition of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” out of nowhere – in March, no less. Even when some tech issues took hold toward the end of the show, with Joe’s microphone dipping out during the majority of “Well Done,” their penultimate song, the audience had him covered and loudly proved how well they knew every word. “We don’t do encores, ‘cause we’re not fucking idiots,” Joe announced with a grin to a no-BS crowd that clearly appreciated it. “We’re not gonna be in the U.S.A. again until September or something, but this has been the best experience…of my life. I’m not just saying that. Fucking. Humbled. Thank you so much!” Everyone present seemed to collectively realize what an invigorating show it had been, for both the band and their fans, and the moment served as a catalyst for some absolutely barbaric moshing on IDLES’ final song, “Rottweiler.” “Yeahhh, that’s a good sweat!” said one of the friendly security guards flanking the doors as the beat-up crowd funneled out. “We like to see people sweating…that’s how you know it was good.”
Author: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley